I guess it's true that the slasher flick really isn't dead. However in some instances I think it'd be better off if it had died. Being the inane slasher fan that I am, It's hard for me not to dig in and rejoice each time a new one hits my desk. Enter Flashback, a German import picked up by Trimark/Lions Gate that's about as inane as they come. The magic of Flashback is in that it could have been released in the 80's and does (to a certain extent) retain the charm of its brethren, however… it is 2003 and at this point you'd be hard pressed to distinguish this import retread from its current American counterparts. Is Flashback nothing more than a German copycat of recent glossed over Hollywood horror retread? The answer lies within my friends, the answer lies within...
A cross dressing killer is on the loose and after offing a couple on a train he massacres young Jeanette's parents practically right in front of her very young (and impressionable) eyes. It's now years later and Jeanette has spent much of her time in a mental institution trying to sort things out (dig the patient with the Princess Leia curls). It seems as if her doctor feels she's fit for society now as he sets her up with a short-term gig as a French tutor for a few spoiled brat rich kids out in the country. Haunted by her past Jeanette has a hard time separating fantasy from reality and with the help of her new students is introduced to a new and glorious world of pool parties, horror flicks (the most animated audience you've ever seen in a theatre) and sexual debauchery (PG-13 sexual debauchery folks, keep yer pants on!). In the mean time, there's another cross-dressing maniac on the loose and plenty of blood to be shed. Who could the killer be? Who could it be!
What Flashback lacks in originality it makes up for in... well, it's not really made up for and I guess that's part of the problem. After the initial murder, there's really no horror action until at least another 30-minutes into the flick. This is remedied towards the final act (where most of the action occurs) but by that time all these activities take place, it's just a little to late for apologies. The characters are unsympathetic, and the English dubbing is atrocious with classic lines like "he won't stop bothering me, he's like a venereal disease". In other words, much of the onscreen action and/or dialogue makes little to no sense. It was hard to place a time frame on the festivities at hand as well and these kids looked to be the same age as their teacher, which really made no sense whatsoever. Numerous plot holes (many of which were never sealed) round out a troubled production which will either leave you screaming in bad movie glee or running to the emergency room to stop your ears and eyes from bleeding.
Flashback seems to have some clever moments of black comedy, the only problem is that it was hard to decipher the seriousness of the proceedings or lack thereof from these sporadic moments of dark humor. Was the flick intentionally campy, or were the filmmakers taking the subject matter at hand way too seriously? It's never made clear, but the elements of bizarre comedy or dark humor are the parts that I dug the most, unintentional or not. The dog with the nose ring, cell phones that looked like stuffed animals or the overuse of the bad pop rip off song as a young man deteriorated in his car after being murdered (as well as the cops who kept driving by thinking the kid was just getting "lucky"). Even the overuse of unbelievably silly dialogue, had its momentary charm… although I'm still not convinced that people really talk like this, chalk it up to either bad translation or bad script writing, take your pick. Not for nothing, Flashback does feature a few nifty set pieces and a couple of moments of glorious gore. Kudos also goes out to the brief part of the bitchy/disgruntled housekeeper played by cinematic icon Elke Sommer (Lisa and the Devil, Baron Blood)
The widescreen transfer (approx 1.78:1) looks quite stunning all things considered with bright sharp colors and barely even a hint of print damage. This is a cleanly authored transfer as well with barely even a hint of artifacting. The Dolby Surround track is quite pleasing as well with clear dialogue and a few nice ambient sounds. Nothing too heavy in the surround dept. mostly within the font speakers with some music or false scare sounds filling the rears on occasion.
Extras include a trailer for Flashback and a few other Lions Gate titles.
I think the missing charm would probably have been found intact if Flashback had been made 20 years ago. As it stands now as a tired retread, I think those that go for the new wave of glossed over horror (Urban Legends, Valentine et al) would dig it more than an old-school gent like myself. Maybe I'm just set in my ways, but if I had to watch a crappy slasher flick, I'd rather watch The Prowler or My Bloody Valentine, but then again, that's just me.